Take Two: Mark Hamill
by Bruce Kirkland
Episode VIII – Star Wars: The Last Jedi
For better, because it made Mark Hamill a Hollywood star, and for worse, because his iconic role in the original Star Wars trilogy became a curse, Hamill has lived with Luke Skywalker as his shadow.
The curse has now lifted, even though the shadow remains. After all, almost every movie fan, still living at least, has a Star Wars memory and more likely harbours some deep emotional connection to this pop culture phenomenon.
As for Hamill, he is 66 and finally going through a healthy, mature-life transformation. He has joyously embraced Luke again in the current Star Wars reboot trilogy. We saw him in a teaser cameo two years ago in Episode VII: The Force Awakens. We see him in full glory in Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. It is a controversial, but brilliant, film that’s still in theatres, but coming soon to home entertainment on DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and streaming.
The Last Jedi showcases a mature, reflective and occasionally self-tortured Hamill in the performance of his life. “Well, you know, they say you can never go home again,” Hamill tells me in a recent interview. “And this disproves that.”
For that, Hamill confirms, we can thank the late Carrie Fisher (who tragically died at the age of 60, just after finishing all her own scenes for The Last Jedi). For this anecdote, flash back several years when J.J. Abrams came a-calling to offer Fisher a chance to reprise her equally iconic role as Luke’s twin sister, Princess Leia. Fisher said, “Yes!” quickly and emphatically. Hamill stalled, maintaining “my poker face.”
So Fisher went to visit him while he was performing in a play. She perused the Playbill – the theatre guide which included a Hamill biography. “What’s this line?” she barked at her old friend. “Mark Hamill, known for several space movies …” No specific mention of Star Wars. “Get over yourself.”
Hamill remembers responding: “I’m trying to have a theatre career and I don’t want it tainted by a bunch of movies that the critics turn their noses up at.”
Fisher had the last word: “I’m Princess Leia and you’re Luke Skywalker. Get used to it.”
Hamill is now getting used to it again. “As usual,” says Hamill, as tears well up. “She was years ahead of me. We were siblings (in the Star Wars universe), but she was the smart one.”
It is never easy for ambitious actors to accept type-casting. It limits their opportunities. Years ago, Hamill went after the role of Mozart in the film version of Amadeus (1994). He had already played the part successfully on Broadway. “I don’t want Luke Skywalker in this film,” a studio executive reportedly said. Tom Hulce was cast instead, and was nominated for an Oscar. That stung. So did other twists of fate.
But Hamill is now beyond just being resigned. “If you can’t have fun making a Star Wars movie,” he says with a grin, “there’s something wrong with you – you’re in the wrong business.”
|Bruce Kirkland’s career spans more than four decades, working as a film critic for The Toronto Star, The Ottawa Journal and for 36 years at The Toronto Sun.
A life-long film buff, Bruce now shares his passion and insight with Active Life readers.